How can you ensure official documents are recognised abroad?
In order to use an official document overseas, you may require an apostille. What exactly does this mean?
In this article, we are going to explain apostilles and how you can go about getting them.
Firstly, an apostille is a stamp that is placed on a document by a designated competent authority. The stamp should read, “Apostille” and confirms that an official source has issued your document and that the receiving country can accept the document as authentic.
Secondly, the Hague Convention (1961) governs mutual recognition of documents between signatories. Therefore, apostilles are valid in countries that have adopted provisions of the convention.
The information in an apostille follows a prescribed format
- Country of issue
- Who has signed the document
- The capacity in which the person signed the document
- Details of any seal on the document
- Place of issue
- Date of issue
- Issuing authority
- Apostille Certificate number
- Stamp of issuing authority
- Signature of representative of issuing authority
What type of documents require an apostille for use abroad?
You may require apostilles for documents of an administrative nature such as, birth, marriage and death certificates or a grant of probate or a power of attorney.
If you are, for instance, doing business overseas, you may require an apostille for official documents. These might include extracts from commercial registers or other registers; patents; notarial acts and notarial attestations of signatures. If on the other hand, you want to study abroad, you may need an apostille for school, university and other academic diplomas.
Where can you obtain an apostille?
This depends where your document originated so check that and then apply for an apostille in the issuing country.
Signatories to the Hague Convention designate who can deliver apostilles. For example, in the UK, the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office provides apostille services. In the USA, the U.S Department of State is responsible. In Australia you should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The authorities in the receiving country may require a translation. In this case, you will need to get the translation of your document certified rather than the original document. Depending on requirements and the type of document, you may need a translation by a sworn translator.
As the subject of apostilles can be somewhat complex, the Hague website has published a useful brochure, which includes a FAQ: The ABCs of Apostille
If you need support with apostilles, please get in touch with us. While you are waiting for formalisation of an apostille, we are able to check the validity of signatures. We can provide a provisional confirmation that these appear genuine.
For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice throughout Italy. We are specialists in cross border property, inheritance and family law.
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UK nationals are now subject to immigration requirements in Italy.
Becoming a permanent Italian resident post Brexit
Since January 1st, 2021, if you wish to become resident in Italy, you need to follow the same rules as non-EU nationals. You will therefore need an Elective Residence Visa (ERV).
This is a long-term visa for non-EU citizens who intend to live in Italy. Firstly, you must be able to prove that you own or rent a property in Italy. In addition, you must be able to evidence that you can support yourself autonomously. Your income must be from a source other than employment.
You should apply for an ERV through the Italian Consulate in London.
An ERV is valid for 1 year after which, it may be renewed at your Provincial police headquarters (questura). You will need to demonstrate that you still meet the original requirements for an ERV.
If you are experiencing difficulties obtaining an ERV or if your application has been rejected, you may be interested in reading this article: ERV case study.
UK nationals living in Italy prior to January 1st 2021
If you were resident in Italy before January 1st 2021, the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement from The EU protects your residency and citizens’ rights.
You can now apply for a Biometric Residency Card (Carta di Soggiorno Elettronica). The Biometric Residency Card is an electronic residence document for UK nationals and their families. It provides further evidence of your right to reside in Italy. Furthermore, Biometric Residency Card can replace other residency paperwork when you are travelling in Italy or other countries in the Schengen Zone.
We understand that Italian residency matters can be confusing and difficult to navigate. If you have any questions about what action you should take or if you need help concerning an Elective Residence Visa or a Biometric Residency Card, please get in touch with us at: email@example.com
What is reciprocity?
Sovereign laws, set by individual countries, have always been applicable when it comes to property purchases – even prior to Brexit.
For example, when you buy property in England, the applicable law is that of England and Wales. When you buy property in Italy, you purchase according to the laws of Italy.
As members of the World Trade Organisation, both the UK and Italy signed up to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in 1995. Commitments made by the UK and Italy therefore allow UK and Italian nationals to purchase properties in each others’ countries. This is known as reciprocity so there are no barriers regarding market access or treatment of foreign purchasers.
Reciprocal commitments made within GATS, establish a quid pro quo principle
Essentially, you can invest in Italy so long as your home country allows Italian nationals to invest there.
The Italian Consulate in London recently analysed relevant legislation and consulted with UK authorities on the subject of reciprocity. They have confirmed that the status of reciprocity for foreigners in the UK is, in principle, maintained following Brexit.
Therefore, ownership of real estate, establishment of companies, the acceptance of inheritance or gifts are not conditional on citizenship.
However, purchasing property or setting up a company in the UK does not automatically confer the right to reside or work in the UK. The same is valid for UK nationals in Italy. If you want to reside or work in Italy, you will need to obtain an Elective Residence Visa and permits.
For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice. We offer services in all the major fields of Italian law with particular expertise in real estate, residency, family law and inheritance matters. If you would like to discuss your Italian residency situation, please get in touch with us.
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What is the biometric residency card?
The Italian government has introduced an electronic residence document with biometrics for UK nationals and their family members resident in Italy.
If you are a UK national and were living in Italy before 1st January 2021, you have the right to obtain an electronic residency card.
Family members of UK nationals who were resident in Italy by 31st December 2020 can also get an electronic residency card and, any family members joining UK nationals resident in Italy, even after the aforementioned date, are also entitled.
Why do I need a biometric residency card?
The electronic residency card will provide further evidence of your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement and it will save you having to carry other papers such as your Attestazione di iscrizione anagrafica and/or your Permesso di soggiorno when you exit and enter Italy.
How do I obtain a new biometric residency card?
You will need to apply for a biometric residency card. First, you need to book an appointment by sending a PEC email to your Immigration Office of the Police Headquarters (Questura) in the province of your residence.
You will need to attend your appointment in person. In order to issue a biometric residency card, you will have to supply biometric data in the form of fingerprinting.
The biometric residency takes some time to prepare. You will need to return to the questura to collect it when it is ready. Collection requires another check of your fingerprints so you will have to go in person to pick up your biometric card.
How do I apply for a biometric residence card?
You will need to take the following to your appointment:
- A valid identity document. If this is your UK passport, you will need to ensure that it has at least 6 months validity. If not, you will need to renew your UK passport;
- Attestazione di iscrizione anagrafica, issued by your Municipality of residence, which proves registration by 31st December 2020;
- or, alternatively, self-certification of being registered with the anagrafe by 31st December 2020 and that registration has not been subsequently cancelled, pursuant to art. 46-47 D.p.r. 445/2000;
- Permesso di soggiorno permanente if you have one or, alternatively, self-certification of being registered with the anagrafe by 31st December 2020 and that registration has not been subsequently cancelled, pursuant to art. 46-47 D.p.r. 445/2000;
- Receipt of payment of € 30,46 for the cost of producing the document. Payable by postal order on CC no. 67422402 (account holder “MEF DIP.TO DEL TESORO VERS: DOVUTO RILASCIO CARTA DI SOGGIORNO” – reason for payment: “Importo per il rilascio della carta di soggiorno – Accordo di recesso UE/ UK”);
- 4 passport-sized photographs.
Validity of biometric residency cards
For UK nationals resident in Italy less than 5 years, the electronic residency card is valid for 5 years. The card you receive will show the title, “residence card”.
If you are a UK national who has acquired legal and uninterrupted residence in Italy over a period of 5 years or more, including periods of stay before or after 31st December, 2020, the electronic residency card will be valid for 10 years. The card you receive will show the title, “permanent residence card”.
We can help you with enquiries and support you through the process to obtain an Italian electronic residency card. Please get in touch with us.
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Can foreign nationals get a mortgage in Italy even if they are not residents?
The short answer is yes. However, compared to foreign nationals resident in Italy, it is more complex for non-resident foreign nationals with an income that comes from outside Italy.
There are fewer options when it comes to lenders who offer mortgages to non-residents in Italy, and receiving a negative response from lenders is not unusual.
It is crucial to follow the right procedures and seek advice from professionals. Providing a mortgage to non-resident foreign nationals differs from the domestic market. This is mainly because lenders put constraints on the level of mortgage borrowing. Usually, lenders will only offer mortgages of up to 60% of the property purchase price.
Lenders have to take a number of factors into consideration pursuant to the European Mortgage Credit Directive. These include the currency of your income and your age. Generally, the mortgagee should not exceed 75 – 78 years of age by the end of the mortgage term.
A lender will also take into account the level and the source of your income; whether you are self-employed or employed for example.
In addition, a lender will required proof of creditworthiness and that you have sufficient funds to make Italian mortgage instalment payments on top of any other mortgages and loans elsewhere.
What are the steps to getting a mortgage in Italy?
The first stage of the mortgage application procedure includes gathering documents. We would always recommend that you seek independent legal advice at this stage. Your lawyer will be able to advise you what documents you need, identify whether you qualify for a mortgage and how best to proceed with your application.
Usually, obtaining financial pre-approval from a mortgage lender takes 3 – 4 weeks in Italy. The second stage of the mortgage application involves due diligence requested by the lender. This will entail getting a legal report and a technical survey of the property you want to purchase. If technical and legal assessments are accepted by the lender, the mortgage application will progress to the lender’s final approval.
It is essential to highlight that the real estate you wish to buy with your mortgage must be habitable and in compliance with current Italian technical, energy performance and building regulations on the matter. In the event that finalising your Italian property purchase is contingent on obtaining a mortgage, it is vital that the property you wish to buy meets the stated requirements of habitability and technical regulations. You should also make sure that the preliminary contract reflects the fact that your purchase is subject to getting a mortgage.
For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice. We offer services in all the major fields of Italian law with particular expertise in real estate and inheritance matters. Get in touch.
Force Majeure: “Act of God”
Does the COVID-19 pandemic trigger a Force Majeure Clause in Italian Property Sales and Purchasing Contracts?
Also known as an “Act of God”, a Force Majeure clause in contracts is widely known, yet narrowly understood.
In general, a Force Majeure is an event that is beyond the control of either party to a contract. It prevents or hinder the performance of the contract.
Illness is a very unusual reason for causing a Force Majeure in contracts. However, the Coronavirus pandemic is not a common ailment. It has confined entire countries and restricted peoples’ movement and travel.
Recent disruptions have seen an increased number of calls from clients concerned about their responsibilities and rights regarding Italian property contracts.
A particularly frequent question is whether a Force Majeure clause exonerates vendors and buyers from performing contractual obligations?
What happens to Italian property contracts during Coronavirus restrictions?
Art. 91, 17 March 2020 n. 18 (“Decreto Cura Italia”) legislation deals with the liabilities for non-performance of a contract.
A party to a contract, who fails to perform contractual obligations shall be liable to pay damages unless it can be proved that the non-performance was caused by circumstances resulting from a cause beyond control (i.e. a Force Majeure).
The same law includes containment measures that limit movement, designed to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease. Failure to comply with these measures is a criminal offence under Article 650 of the Penal Code.
The issue of containment measures, and the restriction of movement, represent an obstacle in terms of completion of a Deed of Sale. Not only for those who may need to move from one Italian Municipality to another, but above all for people involved in cross-border real estate transactions.
Such containment measures may make it difficult and/or impossible to complete a Deed of Sale with a notary public.
Parties may be able to negotiate an extension to the contractual time limit for completion of a Deed of Sale.
Non-authenticated private deed
In order to avoid missing a contractual deadline, parties can also complete the Deed of Sale by means of a non-authenticated private deed.
In line with art. 1350 of the Italian Civil Code, parties will need to repeat the transcription and authentication process at an ulterior date. This will be possible once restrictions ease. Failure to have a Deed of Sale authenticated and transcribed later could render the Deed of Sale null and void.
Power of Attorney
By conferring a Limited Power of Attorney, you can have someone act on your behalf in Italy. If you opt for a Power of Attorney, it is important that you entrust your affairs to a reliable and competent person such as a lawyer. Appointing someone who does not have enough experience or with whom there may be a conflict of interests, is highly inadvisable.
Use a holding account to protect your property payment
Our advice would be that you only use a bonded holding account to protect the balance of your payment for a property sale in Italy. Not just during the pandemic but always. Known as a, “Deposito Prezzo” in Italian. You can arrange this with a notary public, who will act as guarantor for your transaction.
I am negotiating a Preliminary Contract for a property. Can I get a force majeure clause?
If you are in the process of negotiating the sale or purchase of a property in Italy, you should make sure that you include a “Force Majeure” clause in the Preliminary Contract. The clause should take into account a wide range of events. Not only natural disasters and catastrophic events but also disease epidemics and pandemics.
If you are buying a property and need legal advice because of the pandemic, our legal professionals are here to provide help and guidance.
Please contact De Tullio Law Firm at the following email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Wide-ranging central bank and government policies and stimulus packages are supporting the economy during the COVID pandemic. The Italian government has moved quickly to activate a fiscal package to support businesses and individuals through the crisis.
The measures introduced in the “Cura Italia Decree” take a three pronged approach. Firstly, they aim to reinforce the health sector through these difficult times. Secondly, they help alleviate the impact of the COVID pandemic on business in general and thirdly they support daily life for individuals and families.
Below we summarise some of the measures included in the Cura Italia Decree.
Cura Italia Decree. Suspension of payments
VAT registered companies and professionals with their fiscal domicile, registered office or place of business in Italy, whose turnover did not exceed €2 million in the fiscal year preceding the entry into force of the Cura Italia Decree, are eligible to defer the following payments:
– VAT (balance due on the VAT return and payment due on February 2020)
– Withholding Tax on employee / similar income
– Social Security Contributions
These payments are now due by 31/05/2020 either in full or they can be made in 5 equal instalments starting from May 2020. No interest or penalties are applicable.
Cura Italia Decree. Suspension of obligations due between 08/03/2020 – 31/05/2020
|Previous Due Date||New Due Date|
|Esterometro (Jan./Feb./ Mar.)||30/04/2020||30/06/2020|
|Intra Form||25 monthly taxpayer or quarterly||30/06/2020|
Dates for Income tax returns have not been extended and must therefore be submitted on 30/11/2020 and 30/06/2020 respectively.
There have also been no changes to income tax payment deadlines. That is to say, based on the self-assessment system, payments are due in June (30/06/2020) and November (30/11/2020) respectively.
Regarding companies, the Cura Italia Decree provides an extension for approval of financial statements to 180 days from the end of the financial year. In addition it allows for a deferment of tax payments. Given travel restrictions, annual general meetings to approve financial statements can move online via for example, video-conferencing.
|Date||Income tax payments|
|Approval within 120 days from end of 2019||30/04/2020 (regular)||30/06/2020 – 30/11/2020|
|Approval within 180 days from end of 2019||28/06/2020||31/07/2020 – 30/11/2020|
|Approval within 180 days from end of 2019 (maximum add 30 days)||28/07/2020||31/08/2020 – 30/11/2020|
IMU (property tax), payment deadlines also remain as is: 16th June, 2020 and 16th December, 2020.
Cura Italia Decree: Suspension of payments due between 2/3/2020 – 30/04/2020 for hospitality and leisure sector
The government has extended payments by one month for companies in the tourism-hotel sector with reference to VAT, withholding tax, social security contributions. However, these tax liabilities must be paid in full by 31/05/2020 or in 5 instalments from that date.
Cura Italia Decree: Payments to Tax Collection Agency (Agenzia Riscossione)
The Cura Italia Decree provides for the suspension of tax payments due in the period between 08/03/2020 and 31/05/2020 arising from bills issued by Tax Collection Agencies.
In addition, a suspension also applies to notices issued by the Italian Customs Agency as well as injunctions and further collection notices issued by municipalities or local authorities.
Furthermore, a suspension also applies to payments of facilitated settlement of tax bills (Rottamazione-ter). Instalments due in February will now therefore be payable on 31/05/2020.
Payments on debts to other collection agencies (Agenzia Riscossione) including for instance INPS and Italian Customs that are payable between 8/03/2020 – 31/05/2020 have been deferred until 30/06/2020. However, suspension of payments does not extend to payment reminder notices from the Italian tax authority (Agenzia delle Entrate).
A tax credit of 60% on rent for commercial premises (cadastral category C/1) for March 2020.
Companies can activate lay-off procedures. The Cura Italia Decree includes provisions in order to support employers who are facing a reduction or suspension of activities due to the Covid-19 emergency. This means employers can use a simplified procedure to apply for ordinary social security funds (cassa integrazione) for employees who were already employed by 23 February 2020. This support lasts for a maximum of nine weeks and, in any case, no later than August 2020.
In consideration of the lockdown of several economic sectors in Italy, additional indemnity payments for registered VAT self-employed entrepreneurs or professionals who do not benefit from specific social security coverage have been agreed. Payments of Euro 600.00 per month in lieu of income. Although procedures have yet to be announced, the payment of this allowance will be borne by INPS.
Requests for a suspension of first home mortgage payments is to be made to the relevant credit institution.
While this summary does not provide an exhaustive explanation of the contents of the Cura Italia Decree, it aims to provide a brief overview of the measures that the Government has adopted. Although details regarding the implementation of measures are pending, each of the measures has specific requirements that will be implemented by provisions issued on a ministerial and regional level. Get in touch for additional information.
You may also like to read about how the pandemic has impacted the Italian property market.
Foreign nationals with a second home in Italy are subject to international succession procedures
International succession pertains to the estate of a person who dies in a country other than that of their nationality or residence.
It is likewise applicable to someone who leaves movable or immovable assets in a country other than that of their citizenship or residence. If, for example, you are a foreign national who owns a second home in Italy, your estate will be subject to international succession procedures.
In August 2015 new EU regulations governing inheritance came into force. These regulations, known as Brussels IV, aim to simplify and accelerate international inheritance matters and make cross-border succession procedures more efficient. Prior to the introduction of Brussels IV, international succession laws differed from country to country.
Since its introduction, there have now been a number of cases regarding the interpretation of the new EU regulations. One such international succession case came to court in Salerno in 2018.
The case involves two brothers who co-owned three properties in Italy. In 2016 one of the brothers, an Italian citizen, died in New York where he was a resident. He died intestate meaning he didn’t leave a Will.
One of the decedent’s six brothers is a co-owner of the three Italian properties. He took legal action to wind up the Italian property co-ownership. He subsequently filed an inheritance claim for his brother’s share in the property.
Article 24 paragraph 1 of EU Regulation 1215/2012 (so-called “Brussels I bis”) governs dissolutions of co-ownerships. It entrusts such cases to the court of the country in which the property is located. In this case therefore, Italy.
To make life simpler for those you leave behind, it is crucial to have a Will.
For estate divisions, the court in Salerno applied the Brussels IV regulation.
Article 4 of the regulation establishes that the jurisdiction which rules on the succession as a whole, is that of the country where the deceased was habitually resident at the time of death. However, Article 10 provides for subsidiary jurisdiction of courts in which the estate is located – if the deceased was a national of that country at the time of death.
Returning to the case in question. The court of Salerno considered that the deceased was habitually resident in the State of New York. It therefore ruled that the case should be governed by the law of New York State.
Adding to the complexity of this case, rules of private international law are also relevant. The rules governing New York private international law provide that the law of the place where the property is located applies to successions concerning immovable assets.
The judge has adjourned the case until parties produce U.S. regulatory sources. This is something of a landmark case. It sets a precedent inasmuch that judges have the power and duty to ascertain foreign regulatory sources of their own volition.
Although Regulation 650/12 aspires to harmonise international succession, in terms of effectiveness it is confusing and open to interpretation.
For international succession and division of estates, Italian inheritance law specifically provides for rights to so-called, “forced heirs”. Their inheritance quota is guaranteed.
However, in countries with common law systems, such as the UK and the USA, testators can rule on how estates should be divided.
Brussels IV allows testators to make a choice of law in their Will
Article 22 of Brussels IV allows individuals resident overseas to elect which country law should govern their inheritance.
Where individuals have multiple nationalities, they may elect to have any one of their nationalities apply to their Italian assets.
In effect, this means that you can avoid any jurisdictional confusion after your death. However, you need to take action by making, “Choice of Law Codicil” in your Will.
If you are in the process of drafting, or reviewing, your Will, you should consider aspects such as foreign matrimonial regimes, usufruct, tax consequences, joint ownership structures and other foreign proprietary rights before deciding which law to apply to the devolution of your estate.
Should you need further information concerning the topic, our legal professionals will be happy to discuss your situation. Please contact De Tullio Law Firm at the following email address: email@example.com
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Voices of Experience: illegal property in Italy
Involved in an ongoing legal case to get a demolition order reversed, our client offers insights and advice on how to safely buy an Italian property.
If you are facing a similar situation and need help or if you have a story you would like to share, please get in touch with us. You might also be interested in reading our practical guides and checklists.
“They say hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I could turn back time and buy my Italian property all over again, I would do it completely differently. The following explains why. I hope that what I have learnt will help anyone thinking of buying a property in Italy”.
Take care when buying property in Italy
The fact is that buying Italian property can be risky. A 2017 report by the Office for Italian Statistics (ISTAT), estimates that nationally, some 20% of Italian properties are illegal builds – more in the south of the country. On top of this, many legally built properties in Italy harbour significant liabilities that are not compliant with the law.
All this lies ready to catch out unwary purchasers, whose lives can become a nightmare. In the worst case, you could, like me, find yourself facing a demolition order and then find yourself investing a significant amount of money to fix problems. So, when buying property in Italy, you need to be very careful.
Back in 2005, I purchased a villa with a pool on the outskirts of a beautiful small town in southern Italy. It was love at first sight, the Italian dream. Admittedly, something of an impulse purchase. At the time, I asked the estate agent if there were any issues with the property and whether I needed to get some independent legal advice or a survey. He said not, so I didn’t. The sale went through very quickly and smoothly. I used the same notary as the vendor and estate agent and within weeks I was the proud owner of the villa.
An unsellable property
In 2015, I developed a few health issues. I decided to downsize and put my villa on the market.
Enquiries slowly trickled in and occasionally the estate agent brought potential buyers to have a look at the place. One couple, who really liked the property, hired a lawyer to check all the details. To my horror, they discovered that the property had no planning permission whatsoever. I had no idea that for a decade, I’d owned an illegally built property. Obviously, the couple’s lawyer warned them off buying the property.
At the time, I thought it must be some sort of mistake; an oversight at the local authority or a problem with the land registry. After all, how could the previous owners sell a property without planning permission? However, when I went to my local town hall to investigate, it transpired this was the case. Worse was to come.
To cut a long story short, after a protracted and very complex process, the whole situation eventually led to the local authority issuing a demolition order on my villa in 2018. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights this has caused me.
I have a house that is unsellable and am having to spend thousands of Euros to get the demolition order reversed and remedy the situation so that I can at last sell up and move on with my life.
To buy property safely in Italy, exercise more caution than you would at home
Buying property in Italy can be safe. However, to buy a property that is both fully legally compliant and to make sure you aren’t taking on any legal liabilities, you need to exercise far greater care than you would at home.
Illegal buildings are not unusual in Italy
There was a lack of a cohesive approach to building controls and regulations during the Italian building-boom of the 1970s and 80s. Local authorities, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of construction, were unable to check buildings properly.
Often illegal properties in the countryside started out as summer homes. They may be on land that has no zoning permission for buildings. The owners may have failed to get planning permission for the property when they built, extended or renovated it. In addition, the property may not comply with building controls or building regulations. They may lack damp proofing, insulation and, often, any logical room distribution, let alone solid foundations.
Often an illegal Italian property doesn’t get demolished even though illegalities are blatantly obvious to local authorities. There are many reasons for this including an erratic attitude to enforcing the law in Italy, local vested interests and even corruption. Illegal properties can be likened to a cash cow. Penalties, fines and demolition orders can suddenly be handed out, as and when a local authority needs money.
Because of illegal construction, many areas in the countryside have sprung up. These areas usually lack primary services such as mains electricity, water, sewage and telephone lines. They are prime candidates for infrastructure projects when local authorities decide to formalise these areas. Naturally, householders will bear the costs.
However, even in urban areas there are properties that should make you wary. Properties too close to a road or a beach or, in the case of apartment blocks, common areas that breach building regulations. Some villas may extend beyond their allowable habitable area. These type of problems are ticking time bombs.
Seek professional help when buying in Italy
Foreign nationals buying property in Italy can be incredibly naïve. Like me, many people do not use a lawyer to manage checks and conveyancing when buying an Italian property. Believe me, this can expose you to abuse or lead to the possible loss of your property or at least a significant costs.
Make sure your estate agent has a licence. Estate agents offer great support when it comes to looking for properties. However, they may not know everything about a property when it comes to any problems or liabilities. Plus they have a vested interest in selling the property. Their fees are contingent on selling so they don’t want a buyer to pull out of the purchase. When I bought my property in Italy, I asked the estate agent if I needed a lawyer. The estate agent told me I didn’t. Talk about innocents abroad! Start with the premise that the property you are looking at has a problem.
Get a lawyer
Appoint a lawyer before you even start to look at any property. And, choose your own lawyer rather than one your estate agent or the vendor recommends. Make sure that your lawyer understands property law, speaks your language, is registered with the Italian Law Association and has insurance.
Make sure your lawyer provides a written due diligence report and checks who owns the property and that there aren’t any debts such as mortgages on the property.
The report should also include all the details of the property and surrounding area. Land registry details should match property deeds.
Have a survey done
Is the structure sound? Do property boundaries in the land registry match those you can see from walls and fences? A qualified surveyor can confirm all this as well as checking whether there are any alterations to the property including out buildings.
Always get a check on the exact description of the property (existing bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchen(s), sitting rooms, conservatories, garages, out buildings, pool etc.) with your lawyer before signing any contract. To ensure there’s no illegal building work, it’s essential that all the details match the land registry.
If in doubt, don’t!
Don’t hurry and never sign anything without your lawyer’s approval. Remember it is always better to lose out on a property rather than buy something illegal that risks risks fines or demolition.
Of course, the above does not include everything that you should do. The more information you gather, the easier it will be to make an informed decision as to whether or not to buy a property.
If you follow the guidelines above, I hope you will avoid all the costly worries I am currently experiencing. Be careless or too credulous and sadly, your Italian dream could turn into a nightmare some time down the line.
De Tullio Law Firm specialises in cross-border property and inheritance matters throughout Italy. If you are buying an Italian property and need advice or support or, if you would like to discuss a matter with us, we are here to help. Get in touch.
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